Stretching is Great for Your Heart

Stretch to Win is a classic health book that belongs on every shelf. I read it years ago. (Get a copy here). Research proves that stretching is healthy.

Now it appears stretching is great for your heart.

A recent study found that leg stretching exercises were associated with improved vascular function.

Signs of vascular improvement were observed after study participants underwent 12 weeks of training in passive stretching (PS).

Not only was blood pressure reduced, but there was a:

  • 30% increase in femoral change in blood flow
  • 25% increase in popliteal artery flow-mediated dilatation
  • 8% increase in brachial artery flow-mediated dilatation
  • 25% decrease in central arterial stiffness
  • 17% decrease in peripheral arterial stiffness

The control group that did not stretch had no significant changes in these measures, according to Emiliano Cè, of the University of Milan, Italy, and colleagues reporting in the Journal of Physiology.

Not only did the vascular health improve in the muscles stretched, but other arteries benefited as well. So the heart arteries can benefit from leg stretching!

According to the study’s lead author, ” 12-week PS training is effective in improving vascular function and decreasing stiffness of the directly involved arteries (i.e. femoral and popliteal arteries of the stretched limbs) and the arteries not directly involved (i.e. contralateral femoral and popliteal arteries and brachial artery) in PS training.”

“Such changes suggest PS training-induced local and systemic cardiovascular changes” the authors wrote. “Interestingly, systemic changes, in particular, in the vessels not directly involved in PS training, seemed to have a shorter duration in comparison to local adaptations, which are maintained in the arteries directly involved in PS training even after 6 weeks from its cessation.”

This was not a large study and only included 39 people. 14 were randomized to stretching on both sides, 13 to stretching on the right side only, and 12 to no stretching. These were supervised training sessions, held five times a week, and required participants to perform sets of five stretches.

It is likely the benefits of stretching were seen because of increased nitric oxide production and improvement in autonomic tone.

“PS has been shown to be an effective means to improve vascular function, with practical implications for its use as a novel non-pharmacological treatment for improving vascular health, reducing the overall cardiovascular risk, especially in individuals with limited mobility,” Cè and colleagues maintained.

The author of the study was excited about the results since stretching can be done at home and by yourself. This is perfect for “stay at home.” If you know me, I do not recommend staying at home but getting outside and getting active. You can do these stretching exercises anywhere, but I prefer outdoors whenever possible.

Before you stretch or after, I suggest our Nitric Oxide booster combo to crank up the blood flow.

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